ERP is integral to businesses of all sizes, it underpins everything from finance through to the supply chain. Shifting such a major pillar of the business can cause anxiety and cautiousness for those wanting to change ERP models. With cloud, there are many options you could opt for. If each cloud option was a card, then you can imagine that there’s multiple suits and number to pick from making it hard to know which, if any, will best suit your game plan or business goals.
Cloud is gaining steam in the mid-market, with research from Deloitte highlighting that 56 per cent of mid-market companies are already using some form of cloud-based services. As the options increase, companies need to carefully consider the benefits and opportunities for each deployment option. It’s far more complex than ‘cloud or no cloud’ – there’s a whole deck of options available and the best card will be closely aligned with your business goals. Here we examine the top five things to consider for picking which cloud ERP deployment option is right for you:
1. Having the flexibility to customise
For on-premise, cloud hosted and SaaS options, the same level of customisation should ideally be available for configuring your new ERP system. You want your business systems to work the way you do – not change the way your entire organisation works to fit with your software. Despite this, the ability to customise will vary between vendors so it’s advisable to do your homework, especially for those looking to adapt and make further customisations down the line.
For example, working with UK communications service provider Comvergent Group, we’ve been able to create a personalised dashboard for individual users which is hosted in the cloud to handle complex and real time data (rather than employees updating siloed spreadsheets on individual computers).
2. Maintaining control of your data
Keeping control of your data is a key concern for many mid-market organisations and funds should be put aside for transferring databases across when you switch to a new ERP platform. Understanding this up front will help the transition to be as simple and painless as possible.
Businesses looking to scale up will want their ERP system to flex and grow with them, so it’s sometimes better to swallow this cost upfront for greater flexibility further down the line.
3. Getting the support you need
Businesses of varying sizes will require different levels of vendor software support and consultancy for the cloud. Increasingly support requests are triggered by wider business issues relating to process management, staff training or the hardware devices involved. If you don’t have the technical ability in-house to troubleshoot these kinds of issues, then you need to ensure you have a support team on hand to assist you.
4. Service levels
In addition to third-party support, check that your cloud vendor has the appropriate infrastructure to suit your needs. This factor was particularly important for our customer Future Directions, a care provider for learning, physical and mental disabilities who we supported through the process of migrating away from the NHS. This was a complex task, particularly for managing and holding sensitive patient data across multiple locations.
Your ERP system will handle copious amounts of data and it’s important to check that your cloud provider can keep up with the pace of your business. As your company grows, this will become even more important as most FDs will want to avoid starting from scratch if the cloud provider’s functionality is too basic.
5. Protecting the business
Finally, should the worst happen, it’s important to feel secure and adequately protected. It will be highly likely that your system will be fully backed up as part of your cloud or SaaS package (you still should check what is in place and how this is charged).
But there are variables around the point-in-time that the data can be restored back to, right through to automatically ‘hot switching’ to a back-up system so no data is missed. The right level of protection will depend on your business model and appetite for risk – be sure you fully understand the recovery terms.
Assessing your hand
To pick out the best deployment option, carefully consider your company’s size and growth, governance necessities and security requirements. Think about your choice from a technical and operational perspective and then evaluate the ROI and TCO of your chosen deployment option between the vendors on offer.
Putting your ERP system in the cloud should deliver the same level of customisation, support, performance and business confidence as any other option. Choosing the right implementation partner will help you lay down the right card and select the deployment option that best reflect your plans for the future.
Image Credit: Melpomene / Shutterstock
Harry Mowat, UK MD, Greentree